Tianjin under Nine Flags

Between 1860 and 1945, Tianjin was the site of up to nine foreign-controlled concessions, as well as, temporarily, a multi-national military government (1900-02), and a series of evolving municipal administrations. The city can therefore provide an exemplary model for the study of comparative colonial practices. It was opened as a treaty port as a consequence of the 18 October 1860 Conventions of Beijing. British troops were already in partial occupation, and a British concession was quickly marked out down the Hai river away from the walled city. After the British, French, and American concessions were the earliest to be established and marked out. Tianjin was opened up to foreign trade, and its importance was further enhanced by the later development of railway system connecting the city with Beijing on the one hand (since 1897) and with Shanhaiguan and Manchuria on the other. Situated close to the imperial capital, and, crucially, at the crossroads between the advances of European and Japanese imperialisms, Tianjin's economic and strategic importance necessarily drew the attention of all the major international powers: by 1901, nine separate foreign concessions had been secured within Tianjin.

As part of the Economic and Social Research Council funded project 'Tianjin under Nine flags: Colonialism in Comparative Perspective', this platform aims to bring together in one site visual materials collected by the research team. The site complements the Historical Photographs of China resource, and can also be accessed via the Visualising China platform (which cross-searches other sites which contain Tianjin-related images. In due course we will provide materials across different media here as well. Currently we have concentrated on digitizing and uploading photographs.

These images provide tools for understanding the pointedley different styles adopted by different concession administrations, and the importance they attached to public memorialisation. They alert us to the varieties of architectural styles that this multiplicity of colonialisms generated on the new streets built by the banks of the Hai river. They also show us how postcard publishers represented the city, and provide documentation of its social and economic life, of war, religious activity, and everyday life.

The materials accessible here come from different collections: a Customs officer, Briton R.F.C. Hedgeland, who was based in the city in 1903-1906, a collection of Japanese postcards, photographs taken by G. Warren Swire, a director of John Swire & Sons Ltd, who visited several times between 1907-1940. There are also photographs from the British National Archives from 1900-01 when forces of the Eight Nation alliance occupied the city in the aftermath of the Boxer uprising, and the besieging of the foreign concessions by Chinese troops in the summer of 1900.

The images here can be downloaded for private research and for teaching. We also welcome potential contributions of further material. Please contact us via this email address.

Browse or search the photographs by following this link.

Last update on Thursday 28 January 2021 (10:57) by  C. Henriot

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The site is part of the Virtual Cities Project: Beijing - Hankou - Saigon - Shanghai - Suzhou - Tianjin - Wenzhou - Zhejiang

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